Steering Column: Airbag Clockspring
A clockspring is part of the air bag restraint system. It’s located in the steering column behind the steering wheel. It’s a constantly connected swiveled circuit that maintains an electrical connection to the air bag and the accessories located in the steering wheel.
It contains a spring that carries current and expands and contracts as the steering wheel is turned. As long as the clockspring provides a connection to the steering wheel components, the airbag light remains unlit and all is well.
The clockspring will wear in time or become damaged during repairs to the steering column, or when removing a rack and pinion gear, gearbox, or coupling. If the steering wheel is allowed to spin freely, the clockspring’s connection may break, resulting in an open circuit and an illuminated air bag light. This will require clockspring replacement.
Many broken clocksprings could have been saved if the tech were to lock the steering wheel with a steering wheel brace or even the seat belt if necessary. This keeps the wheel from spinning and breaking this fragile connection. It can only spin so far before it breaks. This open in the circuit results in an amber airbag light. Before replacing a gearbox, rack, or coupling check the manufacturer’s service manual for special instructions, TSB’s, and specifications.